256 Color Bitmap Quality Issues

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I've been experimenting with skinning a bit and I've come across a problem I can't quite solve.
Half-Life requires all skins to be 256 color bitmaps, but whenever I create a skin (using Photoshop), I use Windows Paint to then convert it from a 24-bit bitmap to a 256 color bitmap. This always results in heavy quality loss because of the lack of colors available.
I've been looking for tutorials, but I don't need the help they offer. All I've seen just talk about making the skin itself; I can work on that when they're not horribly distorted by converting them to 256 colors.
I know it's possible to make skins look better than that, because all of the models I've seen, including the ones that are made around here, aren't that distorted.
Is there something I'm missing? Should I be using something other than Windows Paint to convert the images to 256 color?
I opened some various skins and sprites with Wally to look at their palettes, and noticed they are specialized to the colors used. To do this, does it mean I am required to know which colors my 256 color image will use, and set the palette in advance?
Any help is appreciated.
 
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Use Photoshop. Change it to "Indexed Image" in the image sub section.
 
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Paint Dosnt convert very good... the image always gets distored and loss of colour in paint... wat u need is either.. gimp, photoshop or paintshop and then use that to convert/make ur skin :)
 
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Ah, that did the job perfectly.
I figured Paint wasn't a very good program to use, but I didn't know you could convert to 8-bit with Photoshop. I'm glad you can.
Thanks for the help guys, problem solved! :D
 
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on forwort, if you use paintshop and want to make it 8bit then it's way to easy to do that.
just degrease the color amont and it's finished, and the paint thing is just becours it only uses the windows way but paintshop can optimise it.
 

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